I am so pleased that my old colleague Tony Blackburn is getting his shows back on BBC radio after being suspended for most of this year.
Tony has had a torrid time, losing his various presenting jobs on local and national BBC because of evidence he gave to the Savile review. He didn’t remember being asked something decades ago, whilst official paperwork suggested he had. The suspension, then, came about because of a disagreement over whether a conversation had happened, or not, many years ago. The guy who wrote the paperwork is dead and couldn’t throw light on it.
I say this to remind us because this was not about the one, single, unproved accusation of sexual conduct against Tony from 45 years ago that was already investigated, with him being exonerated. A poor girl committed suicide in the Seventies and left a diary saying she had been seduced by Tony, Frank Sinatra and Rock Hudson. Sinatra was not in the country, Hudson was gay, and Tony had never met her.
When I said in support on Facebook that I was looking forward to working with him again, a few people posted comments along the lines of “no smoke without fire”. It seems that in these days of social media’s summary justice the law does not count for as much as innuendo. Everyone has to have an opinion even if it’s founded on gross ignorance.
Poor Cliff Richard has just come through a period of potentially career ending investigation and vilification. He was found innocent too but, again, the Facebook jury sits at home announcing to everyone, with their self importance and lack of brain cells, that “there must be something in it.” And what about Paul Gambaccini? He’s now been restored to his rightful place at the BBC but only after a period of banishment and investigation which was pointless and wrong.
So why do the couch juries in front of PCs all over the UK want to cast suspicion on men who have been unjustly accused? Does it make them feel superior? Probably. Does it make them feel important? Definitely. Posting on social media means there’s a chance people may listen to their opinion whilst, in real life, they get ignored, probably for a very good reason.
The blame for all this can be laid at the door of Jimmy Saville, Gary Glitter and others who caused a public outcry, and if you talk to anyone who was a celebrity back then - as I did over dinner last week with one former Radio One DJ - they'll tell you the guilty stood out because they were distant loners, not involved with their colleagues, detached and unwilling to join in. No one, not even their workmates, knew them beyond their public persona.
The now jailed publicist Max Clifford was, thankfully, not someone I knew well though we did speak from time to time as he was a member of my gym club before his demise. He, again, was something other worldly, someone who treated the “little people” appallingly. I still remember standing in reception open mouthed while he shouted at an employee for not reserving a tennis court for him, and again when he swore in front of kids and berated a receptionist for losing his keys, entrusted for the duration of his car being washed. He then found that he had the keys himself. Did he apologise? What do you think?
Some feel the blame for the sitting room juries (or the lounge lawyers as I call them) posting their ignorant bile on Twitter and Facebook sits with those who knew what was going on back then and did nothing. But I would argue that, although it was before my time, suspecting what an uncommunicative loner was up to, and proving it, are two very different things.
So, to reiterate, I will be delighted to work alongside Tony Blackburn again. If Tony’s guilty of anything it’s loving the sound of radio and his own voice. And I’m afraid we’re all guilty of that.
Let the home hangmen, sitting on their sofas, do their worst.